Several clients looking to promote their newly published books recently contacted me for advice. Fascinated by promises of big success, they had joined the Amazon Advantage program only to discover that these promises do not necessary hold up, and that big success is somewhat more distant than may appear from Amazon’s ads. What are the Amazon advantages and drawbacks?
The primary intent of the Amazon Advantage program is to enable a content owner often book or other media publishers, including self-publishing authors to use Amazon as a distribution channel for their products. Like any other distribution channel, Amazon will:
# Keep the inventory: Inventory size will correspond to the sales level, so the better the sales, the more inventory Amazon will hold;
# Determine pricing: Amazon will pay the publisher 45% of the book list price, and the company is free to sell at any price it deems appropriate;
# Promote the item: Amazon can promote the book on Amazon.com the way it wants, at its full discretion.
In addition, the consumer will be able to purchase the book directly from Amazon, and not from a marketplace seller, thereby enjoying all the benefits that buying from Amazon entails.
So far so good. But is the program really a gold-mine for publishers? Perhaps not. First, except for the best-selling items hyped up by the press and well known to a wide audience, most books will simply not sell well. Amazon itself will not really promote the book, but will rather attempt to optimize the sales. If the book has sales potential, Amazon will try to optimize its sales by recommending it and running sales campaigns; otherwise, the product will not gain any attention.
A publisher can also go with a Seller Account option. On the surface, this alternative gives more freedom to the sellers: They sell the book, not Amazon. However, choices for promoting books on Amazon are limited. A seller may choose to use FBA, but will not be able to integrate it with printing-on-demand services that are available to the Amazon Advantage members.
So, if a book is not well known or publicized outside of Amazon, there are not many tools available to the seller to promote it on Amazon, regardless of the selling channel. If the book is a potential best-seller, however, then selling it via a Seller Account can give the publisher a better margin, if the publisher manages to sell it at the list price.
To conclude: The key to optimizing the sales of a book or a media item on Amazon actually resides outside of Amazon, in social and conventional media. If the item gains traction on the Net, prompting people to visit Amazon to buy it, then whatever channel you choose will give you a good result. A publisher of a well-selling book might be interested in trying both channels, Amazon Advantage and Seller Account, simultaneously to see which one has a better performance and margin. If the book is not well known, on the other hand, then it will likely not sell well regardless of the channel. In that case, spending time and effort to optimize sales on Amazon, either via tagging or by getting some reviews, would likely not yield the desired results. If a book has sales potential, a proper marketing campaign should be launched, and the sales on Amazon will then follow. Unfortunately, there is no other way to make it happen.